School Prayer Issue Sparks Debate Middleburg Bible History Class Stimulates Discussion on Rights
Cravey, Beth Reese, The Florida Times Union
At Middleburg High School, the students in Roy Lyons' Bible history class engage in boisterous discussions about everything from the Ten Commandments to creationism.
But they tackled the issue of prayer in the schools this week on the heels of a recent federal appeals court ruling that the Duval County school system's policy of allowing prayer in graduation messages violates the separation of church and state.
Of the 33 students in Lyons' class, about 70 percent oppose prayer in the schools and at high school graduation ceremonies. About 30 percent think prayer should be allowed at both forums, he said.
However, Lyons had the students put their personal beliefs aside for an assignment related to the school prayer issue. He divided the class and instructed half of them to jointly write a letter to the editor supporting school prayer and the other half to write a letter to the editor against it.
Here are excerpts from the antiprayer letter:
"There is no specific prayer that can accommodate every religion. When government and church are mixed, it creates many problems due to conflicting views . . . Most wars and deaths have been caused from the differences of religious belief. Our school systems are based on educating the children and not forcing religious practices upon people . . . Students should be able to come to school to learn and not have to worry about being condemned for their religious beliefs."
Here are excerpts from the proprayer letter:
"Every morning, students throughout the United States are required to stand and honor a flag representing one nation under God. Following the pledge, a moment of silence should be offered to students who still believe in this `one nation under God' . . . We believe that at graduation, students should have the choice to pray by a majority vote. If the majority is against, a moment of silence should still be offered. Who would that offend? …